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The Boston Globe

Magazine

Medical malpractice: Why is it so hard for doctors to apologize?

Fixing a system built on blame and revenge will require bold ways of analyzing mistakes and a radical embrace of openness.

DANIELLE BELLEROSE WENT THROUGH HELL for two years trying to conceive, undergoing nine rounds of fertility treatments before she finally got pregnant with twins in late 2003. Shortly thereafter, the then 28-year-old nurse and Massachusetts native developed a complication that required months of bed rest at home. Suddenly, on a June night nearly three months before her due date, Danielle’s uterus began bleeding profusely. At 4:56 a.m. she had an emergency caesarean section at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Her daughters, Katherine and Alexis, entered the world weighing only about 3 pounds each.

Everything seemed to go well until the end of the first week. When Danielle and her husband, John, visited the unit, Alexis looked fine, but Katherine appeared mottled and pale. Panicked, Danielle found a nurse, and testing confirmed that Katherine was in profound shock due to necrotizing enterocolitis, a devastating intestinal complication that affects premature babies. The infant’s blood had turned acidic. An X-ray indicated a tear in her bowel. Just after midnight, Katherine was taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital Boston.

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